There were fewer injuries in the AFL after the introduction of an interchange cap, but it’s too early to know whether that’s causation or correlation.
The league released its annual injury report on Thursday, which showed an average of 146 missed games per club in 2014.
It’s the lowest the number has been since 2006.
Last year the AFL adopted a cap of 120 interchanges per game, but the study conducted by John Orchard, Hugh Seward and Jessica Orchard noted there wasn’t enough data to know whether that had a substantial impact on injuries.
“Based on a single season of data it may be premature to attribute a short-term change in the injury profile to a single season under a rule change,” the report concluded.
“Further monitoring over the next few seasons is required to fully assess any attributable effects.”
The 23rd injury survey showed a higher rate of foot stress fractures in 2014, while the severity of shoulder injuries was also up.
Gary Ablett was the most high-profile case, with the Gold Coast captain playing no further part in the season after hurting his shoulder in round 16.
Incidence of concussion – measured by missed games – continued its upward trend and was listed at 1.3 per club in 2014.
“This increase may in part be due to more conservative management of concussion by medical staff after increased awareness of the possible long-term effects of concussion, with the resultant greater likelihood that a player will pass the survey threshold for a concussion injury by being held out of the next game,” the report stated.
The AFL is also conducting a separate concussion incidence project, including all cases whether a player missed a game or not.
Results from that study between 2011-2014 showed consistent average concussion rates of 6-7 per club.
“The AFL remains fully committed to the best interests of player health and welfare and the annual injury survey is a vital tool to address injury concerns and how to address trends within the game,” AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said in a statement.
“The AFL is continuing to fund other studies and is particularly researching concussion and knee ACL injuries in further detail.”